(Ron Chenoy / USA Today Sports)
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After three days off to celebrate Christmas, the Calgary Flames are back in action! And after a relatively easy match-up on Friday against Vancouver, they get another less-taxing game to get their groove back in the form of the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are one of the NHL’s big shockers, in the sense that they’ve really struggled this season. In short? It’s a winnable game. Playoff teams win games like this one. If the Flames hope to be a playoff team this season, they’ll have to grab points from these types of games.
The game kicks off just after 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Brian Elliott will likely start again. He’s 5-9-1 with a 3.07 goals against average and .890 save percentage. More importantly, he’s won two starts in a row (granted against some lowly competition) and seems to be gradually finding his groove again.
Due to the wacky three-day NHL holiday, the Flames had to fly into this morning, then skate, then do the game-day stuff, then play, then fly home. It’s a weird rule. We’re expecting to get an update on Troy Brouwer today. Sportsnet’s Roger Millions (who’s on the trip) tweeted that Brouwer didn’t fly to Denver, so he’s likely out tonight. Based on that, expect Micheal Ferland to move up to play with Sean Monahan and Kris Versteeg and either Freddie Hamilton or Lance Bouma to slot in on the fourth line.
The Flames have scored a power-play goal in nine of their past 10 games. They’ve allowed a power play goal in four of those 10 games. Sample sizes suggest that their special teams aren’t actually this good, but they’ve been good enough in the short term to give them a chance to win most nights.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Calvin Pickard is the likely started tonight, as Semyon Varlamov is dealing with a nagging groin injury. Jeremy Smith was recalled yesterday from San Antonio (of the AHL) and is expected to be the back-up. Pickard is 6-6-1 with a 2.72 goals against average and .911 save percentage. For what it’s worth, his numbers are better than Varlamov’s this season.
The Avalanche beat Colorado in overtime last time out. They’ve been playing better lately and really simplifying their game, but they’re also objectively not a good hockey club right now. Their lineup has a lot of serious deficiencies. It’s a bit sad to see Jarome Iginla winding down his career at the bottom of the standings like this.
This is the 156th meeting between Colorado/Quebec and the Flames franchise. The Flames are 70-57-28 all-time. The Flames were 1-1-1 in three games with the Avalanche last season. They’ll play twice again in Calgary: once next week and then again in March.
This will be just the 9th regular season game Iginla has played against the Flames.
KNOW THY ENEMY
Here are some Avalanche follows for this evening:
SUM IT UP
The holiday break is over! The NHL is back! The Flames are playing an opponent they should be able to beat!